Tuesday, January 25, 2005

3rd. District deals blow to anti-porn campaigns

ABC News reports that the 3rd. District's western Pennsylvania court last Thursday passed a ruling declaring the government's anti-obscenity laws unconstitutional. District Judge Gary Lancaster wrote in the opinion that "the government can no longer rely on the advancement of a moral code, i.e., preventing consenting adults from entertaining lewd and lascivious thoughts as a legitimate, let alone compelling, state interest"

Monday, January 24, 2005

Environmental Covenants Law

This is a bit late, but the Uniform Laws Commissioners have a press release posted about Ohio becoming the first state to enact law dealing with "brownfields"-- real estate that is perceived or actually has some sort of environmental contamination.
House Bill 516, signed by Gov. Taft on Dec. 21st., establishes requirements for environmental covenants, in part requiring specified information, including descriptions of the real estate involved & the activity, use limitations, names, and identities of every holder of that property.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Digital Media Rights Standards

An article on MSNBC.com yesterday stated that the world's four biggest consumer electronics companies-- Sony, Samsung, the Dutch Philips Electronics, and Panasonic-owner Matsushita Electric Industrial-- have agreed to start using a common method of protecting digital music and video products against piracy and illegal copying. Initial versions are expected out this summer, but such interoperability, at this time, does not exist.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Internal Revenue Service regulations

On Jan. 11th., the Internal Revenue Service issued regulations that require certain large corporations & tax-exempt organizations electronically file their income tax or annual information returns beginning in 2006.

On the 12th. it released regulations requiring certain tax-exempt organizations file their annual exempt organization returns electronically beginning in 2006.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Federal Sentencing System Wrongly Applied

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal judges have been improperly adding time to a criminal's sentence in deciding U.S. v. Booker and U.S. v. Fanafn, but stopped short of striking down the whole federal sentencing system.

Federal Appellate and Bankruptcy Court fee schedules

Fee schedules for the U.S. appellate and bankruptcy courts, which took effect on Jan. 1st. have been posted on the U.S. Courts' website.

Health Care Concerns

There is quite a lot on health care issues out today we thought we'd pass along in case you haven't seen them.

A CNN article this morning reports "Americans see health care & insurance costs more of a pressing problem than malpractice suits even though the Bush administration often cites litigation as one of the reasons behind high medical bills."
MSNBC has a story about ten major drug companies unveiling a new discount card that could help uninsured Americans save money on their prescriptions. Roba Whitely, executive director of Together Rx Access, said "the benefits could cover up to 80% of the 45 million people in this country who are uininsured and don't carry prescription drug coverages."

FCC broadband rules

The Federal Communications Commission, last Friday, issued its Final Rule on broadband power line systems. The rule adopts new requirements and measurement guidelines for a new type of carrier current system that provides access to broadband services using electric utility companies' power lines."

Also on the 7th., the FCC made public more than 650 pages of technical presentations, etc., it said it used in making its decision on its BPL Report and Order in ET Docket 04-37. The American Radio Relay League had filed a Freedom of Information request on that material

The Supreme Court, back on Dec. 3, 2004, meanwhile, consolidated two 9th. Circuit Federal Court of Appeals cases, granting writs of certiorari to what the Washington Post and others have described as "having major ramifications for computer users across the country."

The Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit organization "working to ensure that the digital media systems serve the public interest," in the stay, has set up a website monitoring the process of those cases.

At the end of last year, too, the 8th. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that a Minnesota utility company couldn't regulate internet calls in the same manner as regular telephone service.

Friday, January 07, 2005

6th. Circuit "biblical" decision

The 6th. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that Cincinnati Common Pleas Court judge Melba Marsh did not violate the rights of a convicted rapist when she sentenced him to 51 years in prison six years ago in 1998.

A Cincinnati Enquirer article this morning says the decision "clears the way for a possible showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court over the role a judge's religious beliefs should -- or should not -- play in court."

The 6th. Circuit's decision is available online thru that court's website, but the Ohio Supreme and First District Court of Appeals cases have only been found on WestLaw (88 O St.3d 208 and 1999 WL 65632, respectively). FindLaw also has a case summary posted.

Tort Reform Acts

Ohio Governor Taft signed two major tort reform bills into law yesterday, saying in his press release that they were "the first pieces of legislation I'm signing in 2005, and I cannot think of a better way to start the New Year for the workers and employers of Ohio."

Senate Bill 80, is a "comprehensive lawsuit reform bill... that creates a system ofcivil justice in Ohio that protects injured parties while bringing fairness & a sense of clarity to the business community," and House Bill 498, a "workers' compensation intentional tort bill,"

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Federal Web Content

Peggy Garvin, author of the United States Government Internet Manual (Bernan Press), has an article on LLRX.com about the federal government's web presence that might be useful.

Cash-out Issues on Final 401(k) Rules

The Internal Revenue Service supplemented its Final 401(k) Rules issued last week,
" providing guidance needed for plans to cash-out participants or to transfer amounts to another plan when the participant terminates."

IRS Notice 2005-5 will be included in Bulletin 2005-3 to be issued on Jan. 18th., but background and copies of the notice were found on TaxNewsFlash.

Information on the Final Rules were discussed here last week, and can be consulted for more information.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Wireless Net Phones

Edison, New Jersey-based company, Vonage, according to an MSNBC article this morning, has announced it hopes to introduce a portable Wi-Fi handset phone by this spring or summer.

We profiled this company's 8th. Circuit Court of Appeals case against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last week.


Articles on the major services are carrying stories about the Federal Trade Commission's winning a temporary injunction against Sanford Wallace and his companies.

Copies of the injunction have only been found on WestLaw so far ( 2004 WL 2403124 ), but the FTC's website does have a "platform" from which the motion and other information are available.

Also, FindLaw has background posted on the FTC's "spyware workshop" from back in April, and Anita Ramasastry had an article on the spam laws of Ohio, Virginia, and Maryland this past December.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Matchbooks as Tobacco Ads

A FindLaw article from last Friday talks about the Ohio Supreme Court upholding a decision that "matchbooks given out at bars & stores cannot bear advertising for cigarettes or other tobacco products under the 1998 settlement that involved 46 states and the major tobacco companies.

Ohio had sued R.J. Reynolds over the matchbooks, with the tobacco company prevailing in Franklin County. But the 10th. Ohio District Court of Appeals in Columbus reversed that ruling, with the Supreme Court then agreeing. The opinion is posted on the Supreme Court's website.

Software Copyright Protection

A CNN.com article back on Dec. 14th., tells of a lawsuit that's been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agruing that "software copyright laws violate the right of due process because they don't provide clear boundaries for appropriate use."

As part of this end, Greg Aharoonian, Editor/Publisher of the Internet Patent News Service, has created his own website as "a record of that lawsuit" and other related information.